Cow Poo Power Redux

| Thu Jul. 24, 2008 11:51 PM EDT

800px-Bos_taurus_taurus_relaxing.jpg California's already trying it. The people of India have been burning gobar for millennia. Now a new study finds that converting cow poo into a biogas could generate 3 percent of North America's electricity annually. Better yet, it would decrease greenhouse gases.

Here's why. If livestock manure is left to decompose naturally it emits two badass gases: nitrous oxide and methane. Nitrous oxide is 310 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. Methane is 21 times more potent.

The researcher examined two hypothetical scenarios. The first: business-as-usual, burning coal and letting manure decompose. The second: anaerobically-digesting manure (think compost) to create biogas and burning it to offset coal.

The results? The hundreds of millions of livestock inhabiting the US could produce 100 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. Enough to power millions of homes and offices.

So could we call the first poo generating station the George W. Bush Shite House?

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.